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Does giving citizenship of Nepal by descent mean losing nationality?


The first Citizenship Act was enacted in the country in 1952 AD. The 11-point law was the most progressive in terms of citizenship ever enacted. However, the legal basis for discrimination between men and women seems to have started from the same act. Article 9 (2) of the Act provided that if one of the parents was born in Nepal, his child would become a citizen of Nepal.  Citizenship was not decided by adoption or descent, so citizenship was distributed at the discretion of the administrator.

The then state did not keep in mind that the number of Nepalis who can speak and write the Nepali language in the remote rural areas of the country is very low. Neither the Constitution nor the Citizenship Act has clarified what a person of Nepali origin is. It had an effect on the indigenous people of Nepal but those who could not speak Nepali. That troubled not only the Terai people but also the Nepalis who did not know how to speak Nepali in the hills and mountains. The state deliberately withheld the adopted citizenship of some and deprived them of citizenship. The second and third generations also had to bear the issue.

The Citizenship Act provides that the citizenship of a descendant can be obtained only in the name of the father. The provision of granting citizenship to one of the parents born in Nepal was automatically repealed. The state instructed Terai residents to register for the birth certificates after 1963 AD, but due to the landlords' system, there were very few people in the Terai who had land in their own name. As a result, the number of Terai people receiving citizenship has decreased, but the provision that citizenship has become a mandatory document for services provided by the state has been strengthened. Since then, the number of non-state Terai people has been increasing, and even the second and third generations have not been able to get citizenship. Although this provision was made only for adopted citizenship and foreigners, this provision became mandatory and binding even during the process of acquiring citizenship by Madhesis. This practice has been forcing Madhesis to be treated as foreigners or to be excluded as Indians.

In the name of national unity and patriotism, the introduction of vague phrases such as a person of Nepali origin into citizenship has led to the rise of Panchayat nationalism and frustration of the rights of citizens. Even before 1975 AD, the number of Nepalis seeking citizenship had not increased that much.

In 1976 AD, the government deployed a team to distribute citizenship. At that time, the temporary proof was given for the descendants and the data of the born citizen was collected. At that time, in order to give citizenship to the descendants, it was necessary to have one of the three provisions of the survey paper of 1946/47, of the Janajati or hill community and the job of the Government of Nepal. On the same basis, the chief district officers started distributing citizenship. It did not do justice to the landless, the poor, and the people of Madhes. When the Citizenship Act was amended in 1976, after 1963, there was evidence of land or land grabbing, payment of customs duty, malaria medication, hospital certificate or school fee, and the documents issued by the villagers were considered as the basis for obtaining naturalized citizenship.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, citizenship has been distributed in teams from 1975 to 1981, 1986, 1987 to 1988, 1999, 2006, and 2013. After the eradication of malaria, the number of people migrating from the hilly areas of Nepal to the Terai Madhes has skyrocketed. The Immigration Working Group was formed in 1982 under the coordination of Hark Gurung to study the post-migration situation. The group, which submitted a report to the government in seven months, concluded that the border with India should be closed to control the high rate of Indian immigration in a small country like Nepal. The Sadbhavana Council formed under Singh's leadership to oppose Gurung's report later emerged as the Nepal Sadbhavana Party.

Although Sadbhavana has been in the parliament continuously since 1991, it has remained silent while deciding on complex issues of citizenship. Citizens of Madhes became more and more affected by the style of goodwill of talking about citizenship during elections and keeping a mysterious silence in the parliament. For Madhes-centric parties, citizenship became the agenda of every election. Now, to reach an agreement with Prime Minister Oli, the JSP's Mahanta Thakur group also raised the issue of citizenship.

The constitution of 1990 BS introduced the old law on citizenship. In 1994, the UML government formed a high-level citizenship commission headed by MP Dhanapati Upadhyaya. The commission reported that 3.4 million adults across the country were stateless. The government collapsed within nine months of the report not being implemented. The politics of voting was flourishing in Madhes.

In 1995, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba formed a committee under the convener ship of MP Mahanta Thakur to implement the report of the Upadhyaya Commission and solve additional problems, but this committee did nothing but writing a report. The Deuba government also fell. Subsequent governments began a competition to show who was more sensitive to citizenship and Madhesi issues.

During the Lokendra Bahadur Chand government, Home Minister Bamdev Gautam formed the Citizenship Monitoring and Evaluation Committee under the coordination of Jitendra Narayan Dev. The study report concluded that 32,849 people in 20 districts of Terai and Bhitri Madhes have been given descent citizenship, 1,198 have been adopted and 43 people have been given birth certificate citizenship and 3.4 million Nepalis should be given citizenship.

The committee gave this information by publishing the information in Gorkhapatra on 1997, but the Supreme Court ordered in 2001 to revoke the citizenship certificates distributed at that time. After this, in the political maneuvers of Madhes, the parties always gave priority to citizenship. The problem could not be solved as the government from the Panchayat to the last government of the republic did not give priority to the issue of citizenship and did not remember the landless people of Madhes.

From 2006 to 2008, 190,726 people have obtained naturalized citizenship. An ordinance on citizenship has been issued to give citizenship to the children of these citizens. As soon as this ordinance came, there was a strong protest saying that the government had issued the ordinance endangering the nationality. Experts say that there is no place to protest against the contents of the ordinance except Oli's way of bringing the ordinance and dissolving the government on the same basis after dissolving the parliament without considering the bill under consideration in the parliament.

The Citizenship Act of 2006 had made special provisions to give birth certificate citizenship to those born in Nepal by mid-1989. Madhes-centric political parties claim that about 600,000 adults born to them within two years are now deprived of citizenship. However, the government has not yet released the number of adult children who are deprived of citizenship. However, as per the decision of the Council of Ministers when Baburam Bhattarai was the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a circular in all 75 district administration offices to grant citizenship to the children of Janmasiddha on the basis of descent. Although the Interim Constitution 2006 and the Citizenship Act 2006 mentioned giving citizenship to the children of birth certificate, it was not written which citizenship should be given. There, 26,430 people had obtained citizenship by birth. Although naturalized citizenship was only associated with the Madhes, those living in 13 hill districts also took it.

Later, a complaint was lodged with the Supreme Court against the decision of the Council of Ministers. During the Khil Raj Regmi government, citizenship was given to the children of Janmasiddha through an ordinance, but many could not avail of the facility as the term of the ordinance was only six months. Although the Constitution of Nepal 2015 made a clear provision to give citizenship to the children of birth certificate, the state was not giving citizenship saying that no law has been enacted accordingly. The issue mentioned in the constitution has not been enacted for five years and the livelihood of around 600,000 people is being affected due to lack of citizenship.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has started the process of making rules saying that the work of distribution of citizenship will start as per the ordinance. Ministry spokesperson Janak Raj Dahal said that the work of distributing citizenship will start as per the ordinance as soon as the regulations are made. However, six writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against the ordinance. The writ petitions are scheduled to be heard on Friday. Even before this, the decision of the government was repeatedly blocked by the Supreme Court. There was a great debate in the Parliamentary Committee on Public Administration regarding the granting of adopted citizenship through marriage. At that time, the Janata Samajwadi Party had a different opinion on the provision of the bill that adopted citizenship can be granted on the basis of permanent residency after 7 years of marriage. This issue is still there.

JSP leader Laxman Lal Karna said that they have agreed to bring the ordinance with the provision of giving citizenship to the children of the deceased instead of bringing the ordinance on the disputed issue as the dispute over the adoption of marriage has already entered the parliament.

Note: [Original Nepali article translated with Google Translate]


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